by Bridget Seritt of Canna-Patient Resource Connection
Upscale products, infused dinner parties, and industry trade shows frequently showcase cannabis as the next in thing, and usually these are portrayed through the “wellness” eye glass. Everyone was excited about legalizing recreational cannabis, but several years later the tune is changing. Adult-use is a freedom we all need to have, but it is wiping out medical access for the patients who carried legalization on their backs. How can this be so? Doesn’t the legalization of recreational cannabis guarantee access for everyone?
The answer is no. Within 5 years after adult-use is legalized, most states see their medical programs as burdens, and attempt to merge medical access with recreational access. Therapeutic access is limited so much that the “legal” medical access is destroyed. States like Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, and Massachusetts are seeing recriminalization of access that was once deemed “compassionate”. Here are some reasons why.
Money. As always, money is the driving factor for states to stunt their medical programs. Even in states that have robust therapeutic access, law makers and law enforcers don’t believe that patients are getting real relief from cannabis. They assume all use is recreational and were never truly educated on HOW patients use cannabis. When those “extreme tax and regulate” adult-use programs are passed and those tax dollars/fees start rolling in, the state doesn’t see the benefit of keeping medical access. Having 2 different frameworks costs the state money, and medical will always be less profitable than recreational. Seeing the highly profitable adult-use industry, many medical providers jump ship and push restrictions on patient rights such as growing, processing, and therapeutic possession.
Small possession amounts. Most adult-use programs are geared toward small amount possession and high tax revenue generation. Trying to manage diseases in a recreational dispensary can cost into the thousands, if you can find what you need. Medical patients with moderate level or above disease need consistent dosing and must maintain a medicine cabinet with multiple strains. While humans have used cannabis therapeutically for years, many don’t understand that medical patients need significantly more cannabis than those just using cannabis for intoxication. Patients often experience shock when they realize that their dose could be as high as 2,000mg cannabinoid content daily – just as a base treatment. If you use cannabis for symptom management, those needs can double. Someone with cancer or autoimmune disease uses an ingested cannabis base dose, plus symptom control like topicals and inhaled. Symptoms and diseases need access to multiple cannabinoid ratios and multiple terpene profiles for the best chance of success. This means consistent access to variety.
Loss of variety. Recreational programs are geared toward making the client as intoxicated as possible, not toward providing consistent and targeted access for health. This means high THC products are the name of the game, and patients need more than THC or CBD. Recreational shops do not sell CBG, CBC, and acid forms of cannabis leaving the patient to fend for themselves. Each strain has different therapeutic effects, and seriously ill patients often need to keep several strains on hand to maintain their symptoms. In dispensaries, you do not have a say in which strains are grown, they don’t guarantee to keep the strains in stock for when you need them and can change inventory on a dime. It is hard enough to get patient needs met in medical dispensaries and becomes impossible when they lose medical framework.
Affirmative legal defense. Medical framework usually helps to provide the patient with an affirmative defense if they are found in possession of cannabis. Whether in the home, while running errands, and even in the hospital, there is a chance you can be arrested for cannabis possession. Merging frameworks is a tool that is frequently being used to undermine the legal defenses of patients in need of real therapy, especially when a patient needs more than the small possession amount allowed. Leaving the most vulnerable population without a viable defense is morally bankrupt.